Like Robert Frost’s road less traveled, your travel costs can be reduced by three simple ways. I always try to book direct, use alternative travel, and use my reward points and miles whenever possible.
Booking direct often yields a few nice surprises. One would be better availability of room choices, discounts, and upgrades. For instance, if you join Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott sends periodic upgrades to use with any reservation. So, why not get that larger, quieter corner room, rather than the small, noisy room near the ice machine or elevator? Most direct sites, like airlines, hotels, and excursions offer better cancellation or postponement options.
When I booked a non-refundable stay in Munich for the Oktoberfest (it was cancelled in 2020 and 2021), I was able to salvage the reservation. I moved it forward another year, and though I had to pay the difference in price, I was able to keep the $500 stay for the next Oktoberfest.
Many of my flights to Europe, and within Europe were either credited, or rebooked with no additional costs. Surprisingly, United has been great about this, as have many smaller European based airlines, like Ryan, Aegean, and Croatian Airlines.
Alternative travel is something I enjoy more than most travelers. I love taking the train, having crossed the US on Amtrak several times. I love the Eurail Pass, as well as Japan’s JR Pass for the bullet train (Shinkansen) and the Trans Siberian Railway across Russia. Also, faced with having to retrace my flights back to Buenos Aires from Ushuaia, Mr. Mike and I opted for a 12 hour bus ride back to Chile. With Uber and Lyft available, I rarely rent a car.
I have a dear friend, Katy, who lives on the road permanently. She only flies when land options are not available. I am sure she has seen and experienced life that most of us will never see or experience. I envy her lifestyle.
Reward points are just one of life’s great bonuses, for free stays, upgrades, and discounts. I use my airline points for upgrades to Biz or First Class. I use my hotel points for stays when the price is high or the rooms in great demand (around a big event like the Super Bowl, Wimbledon or the World Series). This works well for major holidays, as long as the room is booked well ahead. And the hotel programs, like Hilton, Marriott, or IHG seem to always offer discounts.
Of course, word of mouth is often the best way to save. When I left Athens for Santorini, I asked my driver for a good hotel in the best location. He suggested the Hotel Byron in Plaka, where I got a room for about $300 for 6 nights!!!
And never underestimate the staff at hotels, for insights into tours, and sights to visit. I made a customized wine tour through my hotel waiter in Santorini. He doubles as a wine guide in the afternoon. We put together a tour of three wineries, each offering something different, a new one, and old one, and an artsy one.
Bottom line, talk to people, be resourceful, and above all, do not be afraid to take a chance!!!